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Meet the designer – Jo Carter of Two Owls Designs

Crafter's Companion – 12/02/20

Hi, I’m Jo! I began by designing toys for the sales promotion industry, turning logos and mascots into prototype toy samples. After having my sons, I looked to keep my hand in by designing toy patterns for magazines and for a couple of years, had a monthly pattern in Simply Sewing. From there, I worked as a guest demonstrator on a craft TV channel, demonstrating sewing projects, which brought me to now, where I design and assemble my own kits with all of my favourite toymaking fabrics and haberdashery.

What inspired you to explore sewing?

Growing up my Mum, Nana and Grandma were really accomplished sewists and so sewing was a part of everyday life. My Mum’s sewing machine was a piece of the furniture at home, and she taught me how to use it and how to follow a pattern– a mint green toweling dressing gown with floral trim was one of the more memorable projects we tackled together! Once I was designing toys as a job, sewing became work, but I re-discovered my love of sewing for fun in later years when I had my first son, making him quilts and toys.

What was your first project and how did it go?

It was so long ago that I first began sewing that I can’t really remember my very first project. Apart from the dressing gown, my memories of sewing as a child are a blur of hair scrunchies and bucket hats! On re-discovering sewing as an adult, one of the first things I made was a baby quilt/playmat. It comprised of simple patchwork squares with a couple of borders around the outside and then an orange-peel quilting design all over it. I still have it now and it was responsible for igniting my love of patchwork and quilting.

What is your favourite thing to make and why?

My favourite thing to make is anything new. I love the moment I sit down at a tidy desk with a pencil, paper, sticky tape and tracing paper, and begin sketching out a new design and working on the templates. Every now and again, the first attempt comes out perfectly and that’s a great feeling, but even if looks all wrong the challenge of working on it until it is just right and how it was originally imagined is really rewarding.

Give us three words to describe your sewing style

Accessible, contemporary, jolly.

What are your three essential sewing tools?

Good sharp snips, water erasable pen and a thin, blunt turning tool.

What is your biggest sewing achievement?

Launching my first kit, Nell Mouse, under my own name has been my biggest achievement to date. From creating the original toy design to putting together the instruction booklet, designing the stickers and pin badges, and bringing all of the fabrics together to assemble the complete kit.

If you could create any project at all, with no limitations or restrictions, what would it be?

Designing the puppets or models for an animated film and seeing them brought to life would be a dream come true!

Are there any other designers who inspire you?

I admire so many other designers and Instagram is a great medium to follow crafters, and find and be inspired by their work. I really admire the work of fellow toy designer, Abby Glassenberg, and find British screen printer and quilter Karen Lewis’ use of colour and print really inspirational. Carolyn Friedlander designs the most beautiful clean modern prints and Tula Pink’s illustrative skill and use of colour is stunning.

What are your three top tips for someone starting out on their sewing journey?

For someone just starting out with soft crafts, my number one tip would be to enjoy the process. Don’t race to get something finished, but instead take time to relax and enjoy each stage of creating something, and watching the end product slowly emerge.

The second tip would be to view a seam ripper as a positive and helpful tool, and not a symbol of failure! They remain a vital piece of kit for even the most experienced sewists.

My third tip would be that if something is persistently going wrong or instructions are confusing, then take time out to do something else and come back to it later. Don’t keep going if the stress levels are increasing and the urge to throw the sewing machine out of the window is rising. It’s supposed to be fun!

What are you working on now?

Right at this moment, I have the first attempt at a pencil case on my desk and it’s in need of some adjustments here and there to make it fully functional!

See Jo in action on John Scott’s Sewing World!